WELLSBURG - Despite rain that fell as nearly 100 cancer survivors took the first lap of the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life Saturday night, the event proved to be a great success, raising about $88,000 for cancer education, prevention, research and patient service programs provided by the organization, said event planners.
In its 15th year, the event also drew about 800 participants on 45 teams, including eight new ones, said co-chair Tammy Hornick.
"This is the biggest crowd we've had," said Hornick, who with fellow co-chairs, her husband Paul and Sandy Yankura, assisted chairman Dave Secrist with the fundraiser.
REACHING THE GOAL — Members of the McKinleyville and Hooverson Heights volunteer fire departments entertained those attending the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay Life early Sunday with their own relay — a competition in which they raced to don gear, carry a dummy and climb ladders propped up against a goal post of the Brooke Memorial Stadium. Also participating was the Follansbee Volunteer Fire Department. The McKinleyville department won the competition. -- Warren Scott
RELAY — Members of the Follansbee and Hooverson Heights volunteer fire departments entertained those attending the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay Life early Sunday with their own relay — a competition in which they raced to don gear, carry a dummy, climb ladders propped up against a goal post of the Brooke Memorial Stadium. -- Warren Scott
The four expressed appreciation to the many who persevered when rain fell during the first lap.
Attendees were braced for a cold, wet night, "but after that, there was a rainbow over the trees. It was neat," said Tammy.
The organizers noted the rainfall and rainbow were fitting symbols of the battle fought by the cancer survivors and the hope they gave to others as they marched around the athletic track at Brooke Memorial Stadium.
Secrist said he and the Relay for Life committee already are making plans for next year's event as he gathered from the football field equipment used by local volunteer firefighters in a relay in which they donned gear, climbed ladders propped against a goal post and carried dummies.
The volunteer members of the McKinleyville, Follansbee and Hooverson Heights fire departments turned out at 4 a.m. for the event, with the McKinleyville department, led by Fire Chief John Williams, emerging the winner.
The event was one of several planned to occupy relay attendees when they weren't taking laps.
"It's the first time for this. We also had our first band - the Spinning Jennys," said Steve Lauck, who chairs the relay's entertainment committee.
Lauck said other events included the Ms. Relay competition, a mock beauty pageant featuring men in drag; a mystery auction in which various gift-wrapped household items were put up for bid and generated more than $300; and an auction for the right to clip the hair of Karen Simpson, a member of the Hancock County Savings Bank team.
The winner bid $1,000 to cut Simpson's hair, which will be donated to a group that provides wigs to cancer patients.
The event also had its serious moments as luminaria lining the track were again lit in memory or honor of many area cancer patients.
Following the ceremony, Makenzie Santoro, a freshman at Brooke High School, spoke about her efforts to raise money for the cause. The relay's top fundraiser, she also formed its top fundraising team, the Guardian Angels, which collectively raised about $14,000.
The daughter of Amy and Rob Santoro of Colliers, she said she became involved as a seventh grader at Follansbee Middle School, where she helped to coordinate mini relays, because the mother of her best friend, Maddie Carroll, was diagnosed with cancer.
Asked how the team raised the money, she replied, "a lot and lot of donation letters."
Santoro said in addition to soliciting donations by mail, she, family and friends sold T-shirts that she and Maddie's mother, Linda, designed.
But it was Santoro's first year to attend the Brooke-Hancock Relay. Asked what she thought of it, she said, "It's a long night but it's awesome."
Secrist, a teacher at Follansbee Middle School who organized the relays there, said an effort was made to involve more Brooke and Hancock county schools in events supporting the cause, and he's pleased with the participation.
He noted Burgettstown Junior-Senior High School also had a team at the relay. It was led by Madison Campa, an eighth grader at the school who raised $1,318 at the relay's kickoff dinner through an auction to have her hair cut.
A team led by Campa's mother, Debbie, and originating from the Burgettstown Curves team, won the award for Best Banner displayed at a campsite.
Elsewhere near the stadium a handful of members from the Pennies from Heaven Relay team were huddled around a campfire.
Donna Donohue of Wellsburg explained the team got its name because it consists of WesBanco employees, family and friends. This was the third year the team has won the award for Best Campsite, she noted with pride.
The red and white-striped tent was decorated with a clown, lion and other animals in keeping with the relay's circus theme this year.
Terri Cline of Weirton, a teammate, said the group participates because "We've all been affected by cancer" whether it was a family member, friend or themselves.
Team member Brenda Johnston of Follansbee, a 12-year cancer survivor, said of the relay, "I think it's awesome. It makes you see how much support you have."
She said of the survivors' lap, "It's amazing how some have survived lung cancer, brain cancer, so many different types. It's scary."
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)